Lawsuit Filed Challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s Decision to Permanently Remove All Wild Horses from Public Lands Outside of Caliente, Nevada

Yesterday, on behalf of American Wild Horse Campaign, Western Watersheds Project, and the Cloud Foundation, we filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) decision to round up and permanently remove all wild horses from over 700,000 acres of public lands called the Caliente Complex, located outside of Caliente, Nevada, on the purported grounds that there is not enough forage and habitat for the horses. The BLM determined that the removal of all wild horses from these longstanding wild horse management areas, where wild horse populations have existed since 1971, was necessary to improve the health of the range, despite the fact that the BLM permits grazing on the same public lands by thousands of cattle that, unlike wild horses, are not statutorily protected. In making its decision, the BLM violated its obligations under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect and manage wild horses as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and ensure that management of wild horse populations are conducted at the minimal feasible level. Additionally, the BLM violated its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to give full and accurate consideration to the alternatives to, and the environmental impacts of, the proposed action. In particular, the BLM declined to provide the range monitoring data supporting its decision to remove all wild horses from the Caliente Complex—despite several requests from our clients and other interested parties—and as such, fell far short of the requirement to adequately disclose and consider baseline information and the environmental impacts of its action. Moreover, the BLM failed to examine the impacts of livestock grazing on the availability of forage, water, and other resources in the Caliente Complex, and did not determine whether, and to what extent, livestock, rather than wild horses, adversely affect the range’s resources. Most untenably, in making its decision to permanently extirpate wild horses from the Complex, the BLM failed to consider the obvious alternative of reducing the amount of livestock permitted on these federal public lands to improve the health of the range. You can read our Complaint here.

Photo courtesy of AWHC